By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Following Gov. Tony Evers’ announcement of $10 million in grants available for tourism-related investment projects, Discover Green Bay, formerly known as the Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, will seek $2 million to help build a new visitor center.
Evers announced grants of up to $3.5 million will be awarded to regional entities through an application process for eligible projects, such as convention centers, travel infrastructure, public or nonprofit attractions, etc.
The grants are being funded as part of the state’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars being distributed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wisconsin’s tourism industry was one of the hardest-hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but these folks are innovative, dedicated and resilient, and we’re working to make sure our tourism industry can bounce back from this pandemic,” Evers said. “These investments in tourism infrastructure are not only critical to ensuring that recovery continues, but that our investments help build a strong future for the industry to continue to grow.”
Discover Green Bay President/CEO Brad Toll said receiving a $2 million grant would make it possible for construction to begin on the new visitor center, which was first announced in September 2018.
Toll said it will take about a year to complete at the planned site in Ashwaubenon near Interstate 41 and Lombardi Avenue off of Argonne Street.
“The project is basically ready to go once we have all the funding in place,” he said.
Toll said he hopes the grant is approved this fall.
He said updated permits and signed agreements are needed to begin construction.
When Discover Green Bay announced its name change last month at its temporary visitor center across from the Resch Center, it also stated most of the funding has been secured for the new visitor center’s projected $6.5 million cost, with $1.5 million coming from the Oneida Nation.
Discover Green Bay has also sought an interest-free state loan for $2 million, which was backed in the current state legislative session by the Assembly and pending Senate action, but Toll said he would prefer a grant to a loan.
He said Discover Green Bay would be able to commit more funds to marketing if it receives the grant.
Toll said Discover Green Bay would seek state approval of a loan if the grant isn’t approved.
He said the construction documents are completed for the new visitor center, which will be a two-story, 12,500-square-foot facility.
Plans for the visitor center include community spaces and an atrium with interactive displays to highlight attractions in the Green Bay area, the history and traditions of the community and its industries, along with an outdoor plaza and garden.
The Brown County Board of Supervisors previously approved a $500,000 interest-free loan for the visitor center.
The board’s resolution calls for the loan to be paid back within 10 years with no payments required in the first five years and $100,000 payments due in each year of the final five years.